Did you get a letter claiming that you won a big prize?
First, we'll let you know that your letter is definitely, absolutely, positively a scam.
It's really a shame that we have to consume space on our web site for this topic, but these scams are getting so prevalent that it is necessary for us to make this clear.
The scams are getting more and more clever, and prey on your desire to win a big prize.
There have been people who have lost their entire life savings, because once the scam artists make a little money off of you, they keep coming back for more.
How do the scams work?
Very simply, the first thing they send you is a letter or e-mail stating that you've won a big prize (see sample letter below).
Often, the scams will put USA Mega or some other recognizable name or logo on the paper to make it look official.
If you get the scam through e-mail, sometimes they will even make the e-mail address seem as if it has come from USA Mega, such as "[email protected]". Rest assured, that is not our e-mail address!
Also, most times the scam artists will also include a very real-looking check for a few thousand dollars. Keep in mind, the check is not real — if you went to cash it, the check would be worthless. But it looks real, making you very excited at this point that you've actually won something.
The scams always boil down to this: they want you to send them money. Most of the time, they claim that you need to send them the taxes on your prize. After all, they sent you the check, so why not just deposit the check, and then send them the money from your account via Western Union?
That's the key. They are trying to get you to send your real money from your bank account, in exchange for their fake check that they gave you.
Don't Be Fooled!
You cannot win a prize for a contest you did not enter.
REPEAT: You cannot win a prize for a contest you did not enter.
Because many of these scams originate from outside of the United States, English is often not their first language, and typically there will be misspellings and strange wordings in the letter.
For example, you may see congratulations spelled as "congradulations". Or you may see a strange wording such as, "We are most joyous to bring you good news!"
When you get an e-mail, note the e-mail address it came from, and where they want you to reply. A real lottery would never use a "Yahoo" or "Hotmail" e-mail address — they would always use a real dot-com domain name after the "@" sign.
What can you do to protect yourself from scams?
When you get a letter or e-mail saying you won a prize, simply throw it away or delete it immediately.
That's all! The sad reality is that there are so many of these scam artists out there, that reporting a scam to "the authorities" will do little or nothing to stop them. Just throw away the letter, or delete the e-mail, and don't give it a second thought.
Sample Letters and checks
Please check out the sample scam letters and checks by clicking the small images.
Not all scams will look just like these, but they give you a good idea a what to look for.
These are real scam letters and checks sent to us by our readers. You will note that some of the materials are very easy to see that it's a scam, and others look authentic. But for those who don't know anything about lottery games, even the clear forgeries can look real.
In the sample letters, see if you can spot:
- The misspelling "Congradulations"
- Prize description does not match the game they are referring to (Mega Millions does not have a prize category "A", whatever that is)
- Use of USA Mega logo, to try to make the letter seem legitimate
- The barcode at the bottom, to try and make the letter seem legitimate, except the barcode reads "0123456789" — not exactly a realistic code!
- Just the fact that you're getting a letter at all is odd. In Mega Millions you buy tickets, and the lottery has no idea who the winners are before they walk into lottery headquarters and redeem the ticket. Think about it: isn't that why you hear about unclaimed jackpots all the time? The lottery has no idea who to tell about the win, because all tickets are bought anonymously!